Friday, 10 August 2012

Day 2 - Arriving in Paris

It was a mammoth day which started in Tamworth and ended in Paris about 27 hours later but I managed to take that bright eyed little girl from Roberts Creek all the way to her dreams.

If there were two things which marked that passage of time, they would be Sue's constant wonder - reinventing itself at every new experience - and my unexpected calm. To Kym, a person no one outside the family knows, my thanks for you confidence and sooth saying. Not one moment of anxiety.

Our flights in the monstrously large A-380 were both pleasant and surprising, given that each of the two legs held 20% more than the Capitol Theatre does for a full performance. The meals were higher quality airline food than I would have expected but I was surprised how many people at the chicken. Don't they know that if you eat the chicken you always die on planes? I didn't want to be turned into a dribbling, farting unconscious fool like Robert Stack so I chose the fish. Sydney to Dubai was long ... really long with nothing to look at as the entire flight is through darkness. Movies and TV shows help but sleep is what you need and we couldn't afford to let Sue drift of. I kept her walking and stretching and she survived with nothing more than sore shoulders but then, when you are carrying the weight of expectation she is, that's not surprising. Her planning and pre-reading meant than the special stocking and exercises stopped any swelling in our legs and feet. Sun glinted off the starboard wing as we were on approach to land.

Dubai airport is beautifully designed. Sometimes lots of money can be well spent and there's not a hint of garishness. We had the worst cup of hot water, chocolate syrup we have ever had. They had passed it through coffee grounds from three weeks earlier and then topped the last two inches with pressure canned whipped cream ... but the staff were pleasant. Sue wanted an apple but they told me the stack of apples on the counter were "for display" and if I wanted an apple I would have to by the pre-made fruit salad. We did: it had lovely melons, pineapple, pomegranate seeds ... lots of fruit and really delicious ... but no apple. Another place had seafood on the menu, with large lobster swimming in the taking checking out their new homes. Whist waiting to board, we changed undies and freshened up, which, on reflection, might have been better done in the toilets.

The largest eye openers - as it were - was in the toilets. In the gents, apart from the standard urinals, the stalls offered the choice of a porcelain squat hole (with supporting rails) or an oversized sit down with the bowl half full of water. Both were meant to function that way. Must be hard for folks from these parts when they come to Australia? I was greeted by the toilet attendant, who although speaking no english, was one of the most pleasant people I have ever met, all be it briefly. He turned on the taps for me, pulled out the paper towels and placed them on my hands and muttered his only words, "Australia wonderful" - forgot I had my T-shirt with the list of Australia greetings shaped into the map of Oz!

Our second leg took us up the Gulf of Oman and straight over countries who have been subject to wars as a norm. Briefly over Kuwait, then Iraq and Turkey before we reached the Black Sea. They were odd hours spent travelling up the Tigris River, passing just to the north of Baghdad with Iran a constant neighbour to our right. We had finished our late breakfast, which was sumptuous even in economy, whilst 38 000 feet below a history of warring which goes back before recorded history lay across the landscape. Trapped by geography, culture and that ancient history of practised self destruction, mums and dads and their children with big brown eyes which never smile - other people's children as Eric Bogle calls them - wouldn't even notice as we sped paste at 900km an hour.

As we crossed the Black Sea toward Romania, a three year old began singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", as sweetly as any child could serenade their mother. Another, of similar age and a few rows away, joined in for the encore. The first was in Arabic, the second French.

On board GPS technology and cameras located on the tail (forward looking) and the nose showed us punters in economy what the captain was doing. The landing at Charles deGaule airport revealed a runway which looked unfinished and more dirt than asphalt. Customs were quick but bored and Ahmed, our driver, soon had us whisked away to our hotel ... right beside the Seine!

After orientation, bag opening and showers, I trotted down stairs to buy a few beers, attracting smiles and polite laughs because I was in bare feet.

The Pont de Tolbiac
We went out into the early evening, with no idea of where we were until we discovered the Seine across the Quai de Bercy which is a major road running beside the river. Over a crossing and there we were, standing on the Pont de Tolbiac looking at a river we have heard of in song, watched in movies and read about in books. It was "a moment". Another came twenty minutes later when we walked along the Port de la Gare, that section of the river front between two bridges. Restaurants on old boats were filling with Friday night Parisians, small cafes and bar served locals who sat on folding deck chairs or the ground, talking and laughing their day. No drinking restrictions here, as people lounged and talked ... and not a tourist to be seen. We stopped for fajitas and red wine and a seat at the water's edge as music started on the far side of the cafe. We were immersed in animated conversations, not understanding a word but drinking it in like a dying man does eternity.

Pont de Bercy
Should you think Paris escapes what we see at our own Circular Quay, forget it. Make do bedding under under the arches of the Pont de Bercy signified the homeless are abandoned in even the most romantic city in the world.

We crossed the Pont de Bercy bank to the right bank, passing Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, an indoor arena which hosts sports and popular entertainment. In the next few months it will host the world climbing championships, Radiohead and Justin Beiber. We followed the Quai de Bercy, venturing into the edges of Parc de Bercy - a large suburban green space which has community gardens and performance spaces, as well as walking and running pathways. We turned left before the hotel, into the Rue Francois Truffaut - film buffs will note the name - and into the Bercy Village, a collection of small cafes, restaurants, grog shops, specialty clothing ... all fronting a cobblestone pedestrian street with dining en plein air. It was colourful and vibrant and everyone's dream of a Paris evening.

Back at the hotel, we collapsed in spasms of cultural ecstasy and the effect of a 24 hour clock whose spring had been unsprung.

What a day!

1 comment:

  1. This was a wonderful read as we waited for Thai together after our own day of adventuring to waterfalls in the blue mountains.

    So excited for you and can't wait to see more pictures and hear more!

    Xxx sarah and david


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